My Second Homebirth

I wanted to finally get back to my blog to tell you about my second homebirth.

My first birth was in 2015, at our remote home in the mountains. Since then I’ve become a doula, lactation professional, herbalist, and midwife. I’ve also aged nearly 6 years. To be honest, my pregnancy sucked. I hated almost every minute of it. It was unplanned, I was out of shape and definitely depleted of mineral and nutrient stores. My diet sucked. I was super behind on sleep.

Clearly a great time to make a baby.

Anyway, I survived mild hyperemesis and thyroid issues. I survived the aches and pains and sleepless nights. And thank goodness is finally fucking over.

One of the few highlights of my pregnancy was getting professional photos done. I was 41 weeks pregnant (a day before birthing!) and I decided just to have some fun. It was glorious and I highly recommend it. Even if you’re fat, even if you have a B belly and an apron belly, even if you have stretch marks and its just hard to think about.

Anyway, look at this amazing photo Marlyn took! You can find her stuff here: Marlyn Photographs

So down to the business of birth.

A lot of people have asked me what its like to birth now that I know so much. It’s not that different. It’s just like normal birth, except now I have an annoying voice in the back of my head going, ‘Well it is transition, what did you expect?’

This time I knew that I would hate it (yes I do not enjoy birthing), but that it certainly would end. During my first birth I kept getting stuck in the mental loop that it would never end, I was going to die, and everything would be horrible forever. This time was different, it was more like, ‘I hate this, I sort of want to die, and it’s definitely going to end very soon so I need to push through it.’

Maybe you’ve caught on that I don’t glorify birth here, I’m not a flower and rainbow and positive thoughts midwife. Yes I love birth affirmations and calm, peaceful births. I also love the births when people scream and rage and get mad about it. They’re all valid and amazing, and the way that you act during your labor and birth doesn’t dictate any value on it. Regardless of what you sound like, how your birth goes, or what you think about it after – you did an amazing thing.

Back to my story.

This time I knew it was best to just ignore things until I couldn’t. I didn’t change my plans, even though we had friends coming over to pick up turkeys I had wrangled for them the day before. I figured they wouldn’t mind being kicked off the farm abruptly if I happened to have a baby, and so my thoughts went at 6am when a few haphazard contractions woke me up. I timed them for an hour and decided to get up. They stopped when I began moving, so I brushed them off as early work or practice contractions and began my day.

Our friends came, the neighbors came, we hung around and watched turkey wrangling. I kept having completely random contractions; sometimes they hurt, sometimes they didn’t and so I ignored them. Why time something that would only give me anxiety?

I kept in touch with my midwifery team via text. They were anxious to head over as neither live closer than an hour and a half, and second babies tend to rush into the world. I kept saying no.

In the afternoon people’s voices and presence began to irritate me. I banished my family and friends to the river, save on friend who had already discussed attending the birth with me. We hung out on our newly built back porch while I lounged in our hillbilly hottub. I began to vocalize a little through some painful contractions, that were just starting to come together into something. Sometime close to 5:00PM we called the midwifery team, the birth photographer, and told the family to come back from the river. Apparently around this time the neighbors heard some noise and thought “its time!”, they had just had a baby a month prior and we were very excited to all be birthing.

After that it begins to blur together, the way that births do. I remember people quietly showing up, popping their heads onto the porch, and disappearing again. My son came to give me a kiss and disappeared upstairs with my friend. My husband bustled around inside trying to cook and clean and set up the birth pool. My photographer quietly observed around the edges of things. My dogs came for snuggles and then retreated as I got louder. My midwife and assistant checked in a few times, rubbed my back and head and listened to baby.

Then transition hit. It was really getting dark, and while the back porch was lovely I needed to go inside (I experienced the same urge during my first labor). I yelled and flailed and hated all of it. Feeling your bones move like that just sucks. For about 20 minutes I raged about the pool not being full enough, then I hopped in as soon as it was barely ready and began to push. In a few pushes her head was out, but she wasn’t coming further. My instincts told me to move a leg up, and she popped out. I unwrapped her nuchal cord underwater, and brought her up to my chest as my support team helped me sit back off my knees.

Lyra Phoenix was born at 8:50PM, April 11th 2021.

She was a perfect 6lbs 8oz, with a full head of hair.

My immediate postpartum was a wonderful haze of laughter and tears. My son came down and told me his sister was beautiful, ‘like a diamond in the sky’. He was enamored, as were we all.

PS: you can also have some amazing birth photographs if you hire Jenna! You can find her work here at Jenna L Richman Photography

The Breast Friends Podcast!

Big News! Heather ONeal and I started a lactation podcast! It’s available everywhere you can find podcasts (I think!), and if you cant find it where you listen to podcasts, let me know!!

If you didn’t know, we’re both midwives and lactation professionals, and we spend our free time advising folks about breastfeeding on a facebook group: Breastfeeding for Busy Moms.

We decided that we wanted to make something thats really accessible for everyone. Breast/Chestfeeding is a human right, and lactation education should be available everywhere. The reality is that it’s not. Where we live in WV, and where many people live, there aren’t a great number of lactation providers available. There aren’t breastfeeding cafes or support groups in my town, there aren’t a bunch of parenting groups and prenatal yoga get togethers, there are just less resources for parents here.

So here’s what we decided to do about it. A free podcast with as much breastfeeding resources, information, and advice as we can get in there! We sit down together and have some down to earth conversations about all things lactation, breasts, milk, babies, mental health, and everything else.

Take a listen and send us a message with questions, comments, or suggestions for episode topics!

Art Updates!

Hey Folks!

As usual whatever promise I made about regular blog posts fell through, I really do need to work on that…

But in other news I got my Etsy shop back off the ground, renovated into my art selling space. So, head on over to the Wandering Womb to check out the pieces I have for sale.

Currently its all digital downloads while I work out the kinks of producing or purchasing beautiful prints. In the meantime I’ve posted the pixels and dpi rating for each image so you know how large you will be able to print it. If there is something you want that you cant find, send me an email or a message and ask! I’m open for commissions.

Mothering with Motherwort

Today I’m taking some time to be thankful for Motherwort, Leonurus cardiaca. This lovely lady grows in my garden and comes with me in a tiny amber bottle just about everywhere I go. You ready to hear why I love this plant so much?

A note of disclaimer: information here is for educational purposes only and not for diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any ailment. You are your own best judge of your health and well-being, and the person who makes all final choices about your health (even when working with a doctor) is you! Okay, onto the herbs!

Parts Used: Aerial parts

Main Herbal Actions: Nervine, emmenagogue, antispasmodic, hepatic, cardiotonic, hypotensive, bitter

Indications for Use: The names of this plant give some idea of its range of uses. It’s common name “Motherwort” points to its uses for menstrual and uterine actions, while its species name “cardiaca” suggests that it has some action on the cardiovascular system. The full Latin name “Leonurus cardiaca”, or ‘lion hearted’, is one that many herbalists take to be the nature of this plant as a Nervine; a plant which protects the spiritual heart as well as the physical one. 

As an emmenagogue, this herb can be used to stimulate menstruation which has been delayed or suppressed. It is particularly indicated when anxiety or tension lay at the root of this problem. There is also some indication for using this herb in formula to address painful menstruation or premenstrual symptoms. This stimulating action is why Motherwort is not recommended in early pregnancy, but is often used during labor. When contractions are “false” or prodromal, this herb has been known to ease the pain and quiet the contractions, drawing on its antispasmodic action. During early or active labor, Motherwort is frequently used when labor becomes eratic, uncoordinated, or stalls; its action as an emmenagogue stimulates the smooth muscle contractions and helps labor progress with a normal pattern. It is also found in many ‘herbal induction’ formulas for this reason. Motherwort contains alkaloids that may be responsible for its uterotonic properties (leonurine) as well as for stimulating the release of oxytocin in the human body (stacydrine). Combined with its actions as a Nervine to relieve anxiety and help individuals feel centered, this herb is often a great choice when indicated during labor or late in pregnancy. Adding to its uses for the female body, Motherwort is also a relaxing tonic for menopausal changes. 

As a cardiotonic, Motherwort is excellent for strengthening the heart without straining it. It is specifically indicated for tachycardia or hypertension, particularly when anxiety is involved. It is thought to be protective to the myocardial cells, but evidence for this is not yet clear.

What Studies Show: One study from 1996 showed that an alcoholic extract of Motherwort demonstrated cardio activity in vitro(outside of a living organism). It directly inhibited calcium chloride on myocardial cells, provided the calcium chloride was administered after. It was also shown to stimulate both a- and B- andrenoreceptors. The dosage and methods used in this study are unclear. Another study in 1992 put forth some preliminary research which suggests that alkaloids contained in Motherwort are effective in lowering blood pressure and making changes in the central nervous system. 

Safety During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Individuals receiving other cardiac treatments should be cautious adding Motherwort into the mix as it is unknown how it will interact with medications. This herb is not recommended during the first trimester, and should only be used with guidance from a professional during other parts of pregnancy. There are no known contraindications for use during breastfeeding. 

 

The moral of this story is that I love Motherwort. I turn to this herb when I’m having trouble saying “no”, when I’m feeling emotionally vulnerable, or when my stress is causing chest symptoms (racing heart, heart palpitations, chest tightness, chest heaviness, etc). I keep Motherwort tinctures in my car, my purse, on my desk, and in my birth bag. What a versatile friend to have!

Be Calm with Lemonbalm

Welcome back to my blog, and thanks for reading! In an effort to create more content, I’ve decided to highlight some herbs that are super useful during the childbearing year. A note of disclaimer: information here is for educational purposes only and not for diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any ailment. You are your own best judge of your health and wellbeing, and the person who makes all final choices about your health (even when working with a doctor) is you! Okay, onto the herbs!

Lemon Balm, also known as Melissa officinalis, is a perennial herbaceous plant. It has a history of medicinal use dating back more than 2000 years. The leaves can be used as a tea, supplement, or extract.

Herbal Actions: Carminative, relaxing nervine, sedative, antispasmodic, anti-depressant, diaphoretic, antimicrobial, hepatic, anti-viral

Indications for Use: Lemon balm is an excellent digestive herb. It relieves spasms in the digestive tract and is useful in cases of dyspepsia. It is indicated in cases of bloating or excessive gas, and may be useful in cases of infant colic if ingested by the breastfeeding mother. The volatile oil in this herb acts on the interface between the digestive tract and the nervous system and is best indicated when there is also anxiety or depression. The oils are gentle sedative and relieve stress and tension reactions.

Lemon balm is considered a trophorestorative for the nervous system. This herb is indicated for use with neuralgia, anxiety-induces palpitations, insomnia, and migraines. It is a cardiac tonic which helps the circulatory system function normally and causes mild vasodilation of the peripheral vessels. This blood vessel action helps to lower blood pressure. Anxiety and high blood pressure are the most likely indications for use during pregnancy.

Water-based extracts of lemon balm make best use of its antiviral properties. It can be used internally for colds and flus or externally for viral lesions such as herpes.

It has some indication in cases of urinary incontinence and may be helpful when added to a formula created to address this.

What Studies Show: There have been limited studies on the use of lemon balm. Short term studies show that this herb is capable of benefitting mood and performance. It was shown to improve working memory and alertness.

Safety Considerations During Pregnancy: Lemon balm is considered likely safe for short term use. There is no research regarding the safety of this herb during pregnancy. Lemon balm may interfere with the action of thyroid hormones and should be avoided if there are any concerns about thyroid function. It is also considered a mild emmenagogue and should not be consumed in the first trimester of pregnancy. As always, when trying new herbs during pregnancy, a low dose should be used first and careful attention paid to the body’s response to this supplement.

In Practice: I have seen Lemonbalm used frequently in my practice as a doula and student midwife. I’ve witnessed it having a very consistent affect in helping to cease the upward creep of blood pressure that some people can experience late in their pregnancies. Usually I recommend it in combination with something like Dandelion root or Motherwort. Typically my clients use Lemonbalm as a tincture or a capsule, however I tend to recommend the form of this herb that best fits the lifestyle of my client. Frankly, not many people drink tea daily.

Recently I had the pleasure of seeing a regimen of St Johnswort, Lemonbalm, vitamin D, and Omega 3 supplements have a wonderful effect on a client suffering with prenatal anxiety and depression. This client’s wish was to avoid pharmaceuticals, so we began this regimen at 33 weeks gestation and within a month saw a complete turn around. We did need to adjust the dose a few times, but once it was correct client reported that she no longer felt regular anxiety or panic.

Curious about using Lemonbalm in your life? Why not try growing it first, its a lovely plant that’s available from a lot of different places (even walmart!) and grows well in a pot so long as it has full sun. Happy Gardening!